Friday, July 24, 2015

"The Perfect Son"

Barbara Claypole White writes love stories about damaged people. She grew up in rural England, studied history at York University, and worked in London fashion before marrying an American professor she met at JFK airport. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden and The In-Between Hour.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Perfect Son, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The interstate petered out into a road that bumped over a metal drawbridge and crossed the Intracoastal Waterway. Clouds consumed the Carolina-blue sky, and the world turned gray. He had reached the end.

Felix parked in an empty lot and, tugging up the collar of his donkey jacket, headed toward the roar of the Atlantic Ocean. If Tom were alive, he would applaud.

The beach and pier were deserted but for a handful of spindly-legged birds skittering in and out of the ocean. His Dr. Martens sank into waterlogged sand, and he became a blip—a tiny, colorless ant in a world without horizons. Monstrous gray waves reared up, crashed apart, and re-formed to barrel forward with the force of a marauding army. The sun appeared for a moment and cast his shadow across the sand, creating a distorted Felix with grotesquely long legs. Next to his left foot, the water had regurgitated the rotting carcass of a pelican.

Wind rustled the sea oats with a tinkling like chimes, but the moment he turned and walked away from the pier, it battered his eardrums and stole his breath. His eyes stung as if pelted by Lilliputian spears. Felix trudged across sand the color of wet concrete. With each step, he could have been dragging chains.

He zigzagged onto a thick layer of shells that crunched and splintered under his boots. Walking became easier, and he marched across the flat grayness as if he were the last soldier on a battlefield.

Mad dogs and Englishmen.

Except not even a stray dog was crazy enough to walk on the beach in this weather. There was no one around, just the mad Englishman.
The page 69 test rocks! Yes, the above section is representative of the rest of The Perfect Son. It tells us a great deal about my flawed, conflicted hero, and it showcases my love of setting. With the wind and the waves roaring at each other, a deserted winter beach echoes Felix’s mood.

When we meet Felix Fitzwilliam, he’s a workaholic trapped in rigid, judgmental thinking. More of an antihero, Felix is about order, reserve, control, and perfection. He’s detached from the emotional life of his family and unable to deal with his chaotic son, who has ADHD and Tourette syndrome. Felix survived a dysfunctional childhood in a wealthy English family because his big brother Tom—whose death still haunts him—was his protector. Now Felix is facing the possibility that his wife could die, and he’s terrified. After leaving her hospital room in Raleigh, North Carolina, he drives until the land runs out at Wrightsville Beach.

This scene seems to pit Felix against nature as he stares at the churning Atlantic Ocean and vows to do whatever is necessary to protect his family. The journey he’s about to embark on—as a full-time parent—will push him beyond his comfort zone, opening him up to self-revelation and a sense of community. It will also reveal the truth: Felix is deeply compassionate and deeply loved—despite his flaws.
Learn more about the book and author at Barbara Claypole White's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The In-Between Hour.

--Marshal Zeringue